As I sit at my ‘writing desk’ – the one where I’m not supposed to check Facebook or make up IFTTT recipes when inspiration leaves me – the snain (snow+rain) is pounding on the deck outside my window.

Great dark pools of icy water fill the crumpled tarp that blew off in the high winds yesterday. The sky is sullen and the light dim. The only bright spot is the lawn, which is a lush, deep green. Even the raccoon divots have filled in.

But you know what? I’m still happy. Life is still good. Excellent, in fact. My middle-aged bod is mobile (a bit doughy what with all the sampling I’ve been doing, but still…), my baking frenzy is almost done, the gifts I bought for Hub are ready to be wrapped, I’ve finished half a dozen sewing projects and I’m on a roll. So what if I keep editing the same damn ten chapters? It’ll come, it’ll come.

Hoping for a creative flash, I bop into the laundry room to throw in another load.That brings back memories of ‘the Farm’, that 16 acre patch of weeds, fruit trees, grape vines and rocks my dreamer-dad bought one weekend in 1955 when he drove from Montreal to Beamsville.

As always, I think of my mother, and how awful it must have been for a big-city girl to end up in the middle of South Butthole, Ontario with no friends of family nearby.

Before they invented big-screen televisions and botulism was something you never wanted to find in your food, never mind inject into your wrinkles, Mondays were wash days.


In the damp concrete-floored, low-ceilinged cave that was our basement, my mother had an Easy brand wringer washing machine with an agitator the size of an outboard boat motor. The machine’s electrical cord was the size of my ten-year-old wrist and when you plugged it in, the whole contraption made the most wonderfully frightening grinding roar as it mashed up the dirty clothes into a sudsy pudding.

As the eldest, I got to feed the corners of the bed sheets into the finger-mangling rollers of the wringer, every shove forward an audacious flirt with danger. Would it be painful if my hand got dragged in? I can vouch for the relentless undertow of the spinning rubber cylinders, but they actually didn’t hurt that much.

Once the soiled water had been squished from the load, they were dropped into a huge tub filled either with a dilute blend of Reckitt’s fabric blue or bunch of herbs like lavender (remember, this was way before bottled fabric softener). It was time to empty the tub and refill it with clean water. Since we had no indoor plumbing, that meant a couple of trips to the pump in the corner to fill up the galvanized tin pail.

We were eco-friendly before it became popular – we always washed in cold water because the coal furnace was only hot during winter, and the pails of warm water were used for bathing!


I’m not sure of the formulation of the Sunlight soap bars we used to scrub stains, but they were strong enough to strip the surface from your skin if you left your hands un-rinsed for long.

Today, my lovely red washing wizard sings a song when the spot-free load is done. Instead of standing by a bouncing outdoor clothesline shivering in the summer rain or freezing the tips of my fingers in winter, I toss the wet garments into the drum of the red dryer and press a button. It, too, warbles when the cycle is over.

Am I grateful? Of course I am. Still, it would be nice to have a personal laundry-folder.